Disney-ABC Television Group yesterday announced two significant video-over-internet initiatives for the US market. The first is a two-month trial in which ad-supported, full-length current episodes of four ABC primetime series are available free online. The other is the introduction in mid April of SOAPNETIC, described as the "first-ever, always-on broadband channel dedicated to soap fans" and initially only available to Verizon's broadband subscribers.
Commenting on these initiatives, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television Group, said, "These two announcements represent the next steps in our comprehensive, digital media multiplatform business initiative. In the future, consumers will rely more and more on strong brands to help them navigate the digital world, and we have some of the strongest brands in entertainment. Our digital media efforts will help us strengthen our connection with our consumers. Stay tuned... because this is just the beginning."
The four ad-supported series in the trial are Lost, Desperate Housewives, Commander In Chief and Alias. These will be available for streaming free of charge during May and June on www.abc.com. Advertisers include AT&T, Cingular, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever's Suave, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures.
The SOAPNETIC always-on soap channel - an extension of the "linear" SOAPnet channel - launches on April 17. It's said to provide comprehensive coverage of nine current soap operas, as well as classic and original programming.
As yet there's no clear information about the video formats being used by SOAPNETIC but the ABC.com trial will encoded and stream in Flash 8, which is said to offer "the best video quality" and allow users on Mac and PC platforms to watch at two 16x9 resolutions - 500x282 pixels (streamed at 400kbps), and 700x394 pixels (700 kbps).
ABC.com will offer episodes the day after they premiere on conventional TV. Viewers will be able to pause and move back and forth between chapters within each episodes but won't be able to fast-forward through commercials.
These latest initiatives follow on from a previous announcement by the Disney-ABC Television Group that full episodes of selected children's series will be available for streaming later in spring from DisneyChannel.com and Jetix.tv. Kids will have to log on to be able to stream episodes of That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Kim Possible, Power Rangers and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!.
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